With pristine beaches, decadent restaurants, and a variety of outdoor adventures, the Orange County area of California is one of the most romantic destinations on the West Coast.
Whether you're planning the perfect for a weekend getaway with your special someone, stopping by for the day or live there as a full-time resident, there are plenty of things to do in Orange County that appeal to a variety of different tastes—from the outdoor enthusiast to the high-life socialite, you're sure to find something romantic.
Cities in Orange County include Anaheim, home of Disneyland; Newport Beach, one of America's richest cities; and Huntington Beach, home of the International Surfing Museum and the Huntington Beach Pier, all of which make great destinations for romantic dates.
There are numerous places to take a romantic gondola ride in Orange County. A cruise with Sunset Gondola drifts through Huntington Harbor in Huntington Beach, while The Gondola Company and Gondola Adventures depart from Newport Beach. All the vendors have trips that last about 1-hour (there are also more extended options) and include light refreshments, plus the stunning views of the coastline.
If you plan on taking a gondola ride, remember that Los Angeles gets much cooler at night, especially on the water, so bring a light jacket or cuddle up to stay warm.
Staring out at the ocean from the beach isn't the only romantic thing to do along California's coastline—you could take a champagne brunch cruise, a sunset cruise, or go all out and charter a sailboat for a sunset sail. The Hornblower and Seaforth both offer brunch trips at various times during the week, while OC Boat Rental lets you take the boat out on your own.
For a little privacy, you can rent an electric Duffy to have a picnic cruising the Newport Harbor, or for something more energetic, rent kayaks to ply the still waters of the bay with just the two of you.
There's no better way to see Orange County than by helicopter, and there are a number of tours that depart from the nearby John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
Spots fill up quickly, especially in the heavy tourist seasons of winter and summer, so book well in advance to get a sunset spot on a romantic helicopter tour of the Orange County coast. Flights from vendors like OC Helicopters, One Above Aviation, and Anaheim Helicopters, typically range from a 10-minute "Get Your Feet Wet" tour to a 25-minute beach tour.
Whether it's a sunset stroll, sharing a picnic, taking a horse-drawn carriage ride for two, or baring some skin on the sand, Orange County has a variety of beaches with different personalities.
Crystal Cove is great for tidepool gazing; Huntington Beach has carriages and tandem bikes to rent; and Laguna Beach is a picturesque spot for a romantic walk. Bolsa Chica State Beach is fantastic for surfing; Little Corona is somewhat isolated and so offers more privacy; and Seal Beach has excellent an excellent shopping strip that leads to the pier and sand.
From swing and country two-step to the Latin dances of the cha-cha and meringue, if you and your partner love dancing but don't quite know how to do these classic styles, there are plenty of classes for couples in Orange County.
For a more casual evening of learning, drinking, and painting, you and your partner can attend an open session or private lesson at Brushstrokes in Tustin, which is just north of Irvine.
Advertised as the "Paint and Party Place," Brushstrokes makes for a relaxing evening to explore your creative side with a loved one—and you'll both go home with a tangible artistic memory of the night to hang on the wall. Attendees are welcome to bring refreshments and snacks to the lesson.
A classic intimate dinner for two is a longstanding tradition of romance for many, and Orange County has plenty of restaurants that could be considered romantic in different ways.
From the decadent (and expensive) oceanfront Splashes Restaurant in the Surf and Sand Resort on Laguna Beach to Napa Rose at Disneyland in Anaheim, there's no shortage of high-end restaurants in Orange County. You could also stop by Walt's Wharf in Seal Beach or Luciana's Ristorante in Dana Point for slightly cheaper dining with all the romance intact.
A day trip to Disneyland is the perfect way to rediscover the magic of your youth with your partner in the "happiest place on earth." Couples with a good sense of fun can find all kinds of romance at the Disneyland Resort, from exploring the best places to kiss at Disneyland to fine dining at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, where you're seated on a dimly lit waterfront terrace with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" boats passing by.
If the crowds (or price point) at Disneyland is a bit too much for your ideal date, but you still want to spend the day wandering through an amusement park, try the Balboa Fun Zone Island on Newport Beach.
One of the oldest southern California beach amusement parks, the Balboa Fun Zone offers an old-timey Ferris wheel with views of the entire beach, arcade games, a bungee jump, a lovely walk by the Pacific Ocean on the Balboa Pier, restaurants, and several boutique shops.
At each store, you can browse through thousands of tasty confections and pick out the perfect dessert. Then head out to the nearby beach to catch the sunset over the waves while you enjoy a scrumptious candy, cake, or cookie.
To spend a romantic getaway relaxed and pampered, the five-star, five-diamond Resort at Pelican Hill is one of the area's best all-inclusive vacation destinations. Located on over 500 acres of coastal land, the Resort at Pelican Hill features three miles of beaches at Crystal Cove, an iconic "Coliseum Pool," two ocean-view golf courses, and many seasonal events. Although the price is on the higher end, it's certainly worth every penny to share an unforgettable getaway.
Known as "The Crown of the Sea," the Corona Del Mar Beach is located just south of Newport Beach and offers one of the best views of the Pacific Ocean from Inspiration Point. This public park is lovely for an evening stroll, an afternoon of whale watching, or sitting on a park bench while taking in the views. There are also a few easy hiking trails located around the park should you want to work up a sweat before the sun goes down.
The Old Towne Orange Walking Food Tour is a tasty way to try small bites of the local cuisines while spending the whole day with your partner. Restaurants participating on the tour include local favorites like Citrus City Grille, Cafe Lucca, Felix Continental Cafe, and the historic Watsons Drug and Soda Fountain, which first opened in 1899. Alcohol is not included but can be purchased as some of the vendors you'll be stopping by.
If you're not really a foodie, or just want to drink a little on your romantic getaway, try a tour of one of the many vineyards in Orange County. Choose from a variety of adventures with OC Wines like the Explore Estate Wineries tour, which brings guests to Silverado Canyon's Giracci Vineyards and the Cowboy Canyon Winery. Another unique option from OC Wines is the "Ecological Refuge and Resort" tour, which heads to a wildlife refuge where guest observe rescued animals while sipping on some local wines at Rancho Las Lomas.
If you're visiting Orange County in the spring or summer, walk around Corona del Mar's Sherman Library and Botanical Gardens to enjoy a wide range of exotic and domestic plants and flowers. Although the library is only open on weekdays, the botanical gardens are open year-round (excluding holidays), and there's even a miniature garden gnome village to discover.
The on-site restaurant, Cafe Jardin, is open for brunch and lunch, as well as offering an afternoon tea service every second and last Wednesday of the month.